An ASL Dictionary

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Living Loud: Kitty O’Neil – The Fastest Woman in the World, Stuntwoman, and Racer

Deaf Culture   |  Sunday, March 24, 2019

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

This article is part of our "Living Loud" series, which highlights famous people who are deaf or hard of hearing and their impact in the world.

Kitty O'Neal
Kitty O'Neil in 1976 with the rocket-powered SMI Motivator vehicle she used to set the land-speed record for women - a record she still holds today. (Photo Credit: Ky Michaelson)

Known as "the fastest woman in the world," Kitty O’Neil was born in Corpus Christi, Texas on March 24, 1946. She became deaf at the age of 4 months. She had a variety of illnesses including measles, mumps and the chicken pox - one or all of which led to her becoming profoundly deaf.

Despite her early illnesses, she became a phenomenal athlete. She said, "My mother pushed me to read lips… but she didn’t push me in sports – I did that myself. Because I was deaf, I had a very positive mental attitude. You have to show people you can do anything."

She fell in love with swimming and diving. She finished in twelfth place in the U.S. team trials for the Olympics in Tokyo, where she specialized in diving. Her Olympic dream came to a quick stop in 1964 when she became ill with spinal meningitis. She was told the illness would likely paralyze her. She survived spinal meningitis, only to battle two rounds of cancer by her 28th birthday. However, O’Neil wasn’t one to be defeated. "When I was 18, I was told I couldn’t get a job because I was deaf. But I said someday I’m going to be famous in sports to show them I can do anything." She lived up to her vow.

“ I’m not afraid of anything.
     - Kitty O’Neil

After regaining her health, she turned her attention to racing and performing stunts. She was small, at 5ft 2in tall and just 97 pounds, but she said her size made her light and quick and better to withstand impact. Most importantly, she was fearless. "I’m not afraid of anything," she said.

In 1976, at the age of 30, O’Neil was the first woman to be accepted into Stunts Unlimited, an organization of Hollywood’s top stunt people. She did stunts in TV shows and movies like Quincy, Baretta, The Bionic Woman, Smokey and the Bandit II, The Blues Brothers, and Airport ’77.

Kitty O'Neal
Falling 127 feet as Wonder Woman in 1979, O’Neil set a women’s high-fall record. (Photo Credit: IMBd)

Some considered her to be like a real-world Wonder Woman and in 1979 she performed her most famous Hollywood stunt as a double for Wonder Woman. She plunged headfirst down 127 feet from the 12-story Valley Hilton in Sherman Oaks, California onto an inflatable air bag set up on the hotel's pool deck. "If I hadn't hit the center of the bag, I probably would have been killed," she told The Washington Post. With the fall, she set a women’s high-fall record, however, she would later beat her own record with a 180 foot fall from a helicopter.

Kitty O'Neal
Mattel created a Kitty O’Neil action figure in 1978.

In 1978 Mattel created a Kitty O’Neil action figure and in 1979 a television film was made about her life called Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story. Stockard Channing stared as O’Neil and, of course, O’Neil did her own stunts. She later commented that about half of the movie was true.

Kitty O'Neal
Kitty O'Neil at the Eureka Pioneer Museum in Eureka, South Dakota. (Photo Credit: IMBd)

From racing boats, cars, dune buggies, motorcycles, a three-wheeled machine, and even holding a record for the fastest speed while waterskiing, she set 22 speed records on land and water during her career.

She died November 2, 2018, at the age of 72 in Eureka, South Dakota. The local Museum in Eureka showcases memorabilia from her career as a stuntwoman and racer. She is still the fastest woman driver ever and continues to hold the land-speed record today.

See It Signed - Example Sentence

See this example sentence about Kitty O'Neil signed:

Kitty O'Neil Example

English Sentence: Did you see the movie about the life of Kitty O’Neil, a deaf stuntwoman and racer?
ASL Gloss: YOU FINISH SEE MOVIE ABOUT DEAF WOMAN HERSELF FAMOUS S-T-U-N-T WOMAN AND CAR RACER. HER NAME K-I-T-T-Y O’-N-E-I-L.
 

Become a Member of Signing Savvy to see more example sentences signed, including example sentences related to Deaf Culture.

Resources

  1. Barnes, Mike (2018, November 5). Kitty O'Neil, Famed Hollywood Stuntwoman and Daredevil, Dies at 72. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/kitty-oneil-dead-hollywood-stuntwoman-daredevil-was-72-1158193

  2. History.com Editors (2009, November 13). Deaf stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil sets women’s land-speed record. History.com. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/deaf-stuntwoman-kitty-oneil-sets-womens-land-speed-record

  3. Hutchinson, Pamela (2018, November 7). Kitty O'Neil: the incredible story of the fastest woman in the world. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/07/kitty-oneil-fastest-woman-in-the-world-obituary

  4. Kelly, Kate (2011, March 7). Kitty O’Neil (1947-2018), Stuntwoman. America Comes Alive. Retrieved from https://americacomesalive.com/2011/03/07/kitty-oneil-stuntwoman/

  5. Wikipedia contributors. (2019, February 25). Kitty O'Neil. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitty_O%27Neil

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Your Interpreter Committee

Your Interpreter Committee

Interpreter Tips   |  Sunday, March 17, 2019

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

All of us have heard “little voices” in our head. There may be a voice when you do something you shouldn’t, when you receive praise or when you’re trying to stay motivated. It could be the voice of a parent, a coach, a teacher, a friend, or anyone.

This chorus of voices is sometimes referred to as “The Committee” by interpreters.  It represents our minds talking to us while we’re working, playing and living life. Think about what you hear when you’re interpreting. Is your Committee nice? Are they supportive? Do any Committee members have a louder voice than the rest? Below are examples of possible Committee members:

  • Mr Worry
  • Ms Confident
  • Ms Positive
  • Mr Wet Blanket
  • Debbie Downer
  • The Lifeguard
  • The Cheerleader
  • The Saucy One
  • The Judge
  • The Critiquer
  • The Exaggerator
  • The Discourager
  • The Analyst
  • The Chairperson
  • The Optimist
  • The Compromiser
  • The Perfectionist
  • The Critic

Do you need to silence or fire someone? Do you need to add someone to your Committee?

Who is on your committee? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

Signing Children’s Books: Olivia

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, March 14, 2019

By John Miller

This article is part of our “Signing Children’s Books” series, which highlights children’s books and pairs them with pre-built Signing Savvy word lists to help you get started with learning and signing the vocabulary in the book. Reading and literacy is so important. By sharing these pre-built word lists, we hope to cut down on prep time for families that are just beginning to learn ASL and hope you can find more comfort in sharing literacy with our young deaf children.

Olivia by Ian Falconer is a popular children’s book. It’s a New York Times #1 bestseller and it is an Caldecott Honor Book, one of the most prestigious American children’s book awards.

This is a cute little tale of a young pig named Olivia. She is a very confident little pig that looks at life through a very interesting lens. Children love this book and the author has gone on to expand the character into many books exploring all kinds of adventures. This first book takes you through Olivia’s day, introducing you to her family, and shows you how she interacts with her surroundings.  It’s a great introduction to a very loveable character.

Extension Activities

Interestingly, 2019 is the Chinese year of the pig. So if you are looking for some activities and literature related to pigs, this is a great, classic children’s book to check out.

You can find printable pages and activities related to the book Olivia, as well as activities about the Chinese year of the pig on Pinterest.

Get the Pre-Built Word List for this Book!

I hope through the Olivia word list you will feel confident to share this story with your children. You can also bring up signs on the Signing Savvy Member App using the pre-built word list as you go through the book.

Word List for Olivia

View word list of ASL signs for the book Olivia

Related Items

  

Signing Savvy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking signingsavvy.com to Amazon properties. That means Signing Savvy may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, your cost will be exactly the same regardless, but Signing Savvy will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us continue to improve Signing Savvy!

 

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Living Loud: Phyllis Frelich - Actress, Innovator, and Tony Award Winner

Living Loud: Phyllis Frelich - Actress, Innovator, and Tony Award Winner

Deaf Culture   |  Sunday, March 10, 2019

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

This article is part of our "Living Loud" series, which highlights famous people who are deaf or hard of hearing and their impact in the world.

Phyllis Frelich
Phyllis Frelich was crowned homecoming queen in 1958 at the North Dakota School for the Deaf. (Photo Credit: North Dakota School for the Deaf Legacy of the Frelich Family)

Phyllis Frelich was born on February 29, 1944 (on Leap Day) in Devils Lake, North Dakota and was the oldest of her 9 siblings. Like both of her parents and all of her siblings, she was deaf and attended the North Dakota School for the Deaf. Her parents Philip and Esther were leading members of the Deaf community. They were actively involved with events at the North Dakota School for the Deaf and in the local Deaf community, and also both served as state officers for the North Dakota Association of the Deaf. She was a cheerleader and Homecoming Queen at the North Dakota School for the Deaf.

A Love for Acting

When Phyllis showed a dramatic flair in school in North Dakota in the 1950’s, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity or call for Deaf actors. When she went to Gallaudet College (now called Gallaudet University), there was no drama or theatre degree offered, she was discouraged from pursuing acting, and was told repeatedly there wasn’t a future in acting for deaf performers, so she got a degree in Library Science.

Her graduation gift, however, was connecting with others who had talent, imagination, and desire, including the group who founded the National Theater for the Deaf in 1967. This led to her first TV role on NBC’s nationally syndicated Theater of the Deaf, which was the first television show with deaf actors using sign language rather than mime.

Phyllis Frelich acting
Frelich starred as Sarah Norman in 887 performances over more than two years while Children of a Lesser God was on Broadway. It was the longest running play in the Longacre Theatre. (Photo Credit: Playbill: What 41 Shows Ran the Longest in Each Broadway Theatre?

Phyllis Frelich
Frelich with co-star John Rubenstein with their Tony Awards in 1980. (Photo Credit: North Dakota School for the Deaf Legacy of the Frelich Family)

Her theatre work reached a zenith in 1980, when she played the leading female role in the Broadway production of Children of a Lesser God, written by Mark Medoff. It was about the romantic relationship between a deaf student and her teacher and it has been said that Medoff was largely inspired by the relationship of Phyllis and her hearing husband when he wrote the play. The play won the Tony award for Best Play, and Frelich became the first Deaf person to win a Tony award, for Best Actress. She was also nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance in the 1985 television movie Love Is Never Silent.

She made several television guest appearances, on shows including Barney Miller, ER, L.A. Law, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She performed the ASL interpretation of Jewel's rendition of the national anthem at Super Bowl XXXII.

She toured all over the world with the National Theater of the Deaf as well as with Deaf West, where she performed in shows like "Big River" and "The House of Bernarda Alba." She also took on gender-switching performances in "The Gin Game" (playing Weller Martin) and "Equus" (playing Dr. Dysart).

Activist and Trailblazer

“ We are a cultural minority. We feel we are different by language, not by physical disability.
     - Phyllis Frelich

Frelich didn’t take a back seat or give up when she was told there weren’t opportunities for deaf performers. Instead, she led the way, trailblazing a path for others, and became an activist for the rights of deaf actors. Frelich said she did not consider deafness a handicap and explained, “We are a cultural minority. We feel we are different by language, not by physical disability.”

Phyllis Frelich
This portrait of Frelich was painted by Vern Skaug and is displayed in the North Dakota Rough Rider Hall of Fame in Bismarck, ND. She was presented with the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award by the Governor of North Dakota in 1981. (Photo Credit: North Dakota School for the Deaf Legacy of the Frelich Family)

Though she and others paved the way for deaf actors and actresses, Frelich said “There are fewer stereotypes about deaf people than there used to be but Hollywood still tends to believe that deaf characters are either angry and bitter and/or victims; maybe that’s why deaf actresses work more than deaf actors, at least on TV. They’re women, they’re deaf, they’re victims. What we need are more deaf writers writing about our experiences truthfully.”

Phyllis Frelich died April 10, 2014, at the age of 70. Her obituary in the Washington Post called her “one of the most prominent deaf actresses of her generation,” citing not only her awards but also her work as the first deaf member to serve on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild and her advocacy for the rights of deaf actors.

See It Signed - Example Sentence

See this example sentence about Phyllis Frelich signed:

Phyllis Frelich Example

ASL Gloss: P-H-Y-L-L-I-S F-R-E-L-I-C-H HERSELF DEAF ACTRESS FAMOUS WHY? WIN T-O-N-Y AWARD FOR PLAY “CHILDREN O-F A L-E-S-S-E-R GOD.”

English Example: Phyllis Frelich was a deaf actress and famous for winning the 1980 Best Actress Tony Award for the play "Children of a Lesser God."

Become a Member of Signing Savvy to see more example sentences signed, including example sentences related to Deaf Culture.

Resources

  1. Bakken, Lilia. North Dakota School for the Deaf Legacy of the Frelich Family. North Dakota School for the Deaf Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Retrieved from: https://www.nd.gov/ndsd/sites/ndsd/files/documents/history/docs/Frelich%20Legacy%20Finished.pdf

  2. Horwitz, Simi (2004, May 14). Medoff's Muse: Phyllis Frelich. Backstage. Retrieved from: https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/medoffs-muse-phyllis-frelich-39589/

  3. McDonough, Megan (2014, April 14). Phyllis Frelich, deaf actress who won Tony for 'Children of a Lesser God,' Dies at 70. Washington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/phyllis-frelich-deaf-actress-who-won-tony-for-children-of-a-lesser-god-dies-at-70/2014/04/14/46fd6cf0-c3e2-11e3-bcec-b71ee10e9bc3_story.html

  4. National Theatre of the Deaf Performance Log. National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD). http://www.ntd.org/ntd_past-performances.html

  5. Phyllis Frelich. Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/phyllis-frelich-41308

  6. Phyllis Frelich. Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com, Inc. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0293992/ 

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Signing Children’s Books: Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, March 7, 2019

By John Miller

This article is part of our “Signing Children’s Books” series, which highlights children’s books and pairs them with pre-built Signing Savvy word lists to help you get started with learning and signing the vocabulary in the book. Reading and literacy is so important. By sharing these pre-built word lists, we hope to cut down on prep time for families that are just beginning to learn ASL and hope you can find more comfort in sharing literacy with our young deaf children.

Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley is another great book to sign with your children. It is a fun, non-scary way to discuss Monsters. This is a simple "take away/add to" book that is creatively put together so the readers see the image in the book transform as you turn each page. Young readers are always intrigued by the visual effects, but older readers enjoy it as well.

Learning Colors in ASL

This book focuses on vocabulary related to parts of the face and colors. We have a word list of colors and a handout of colors to help you review colors with your children.

Colors in American Sign Language (ASL)

Signing Savvy Member Feature: Download this image / flyer as a printable PDF page.

Extension Activities

There are a ton of really cute teaching activities that have been created over the years that go along well with this book to enhance the whole Big Green Monster experience. Checkout Pinterest for ways to keep the experience going!

If you like the book Go Away, Big Green Monster!, you might also want to check out these other books by the author: Glad Monster, Sad MonsterNighty Night, Little Green Monster, and Bye-Bye, Big Bad Bullybug!

Get the Pre-Built Word List for this Book!

I hope through the Go Away, Big Green Monster! word list you will feel confident to share this story with your children. You can also bring up signs on the Signing Savvy Member App using the pre-built word list as you go through the book.

Word List for Go Away, Big Green Monster!

View word list of ASL signs for the book Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Related Books

  

Signing Savvy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking signingsavvy.com to Amazon properties. That means Signing Savvy may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, your cost will be exactly the same regardless, but Signing Savvy will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us continue to improve Signing Savvy!

 

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